Why It Works
- The pecan-custard filling strikes the right balance: a plentiful amount of chopped and whole nuts, with just enough egg to set and slice well.
- Toasting the pecans intensifies their flavor.
- Fashioning an aluminum foil shield and placing it over the filling toward the end of baking protects the layer of whole pecans, preventing them from getting burnt.
I've always enjoyed mixing it up when it comes to holiday baking, throwing a pumpkin cheesecake or frozen mousse into the Thanksgiving mix to keep things fresh and interesting. And yet, in spite of my adventurous nature, there is one standard dessert that must be on the table for the final course; a classic, unadulterated pecan pie. It's a non-negotiable that may as well have been included in my wedding vows, "In sickness, or in health, I will bake thee a pecan pie on Thanksgiving."
But in the sea of holiday stress and fuss, a pecan pie is akin to a baking vacation.
Fair enough, there is a pie crust to contend with, but I'm confident that as a Serious Eater, you're a pro at that by now. Each year, when I pull down the right notebook of recipes, I'm always happily reminded of how deceptively simple this pie is to make.
You start by making a shaped and chilled bottom pie crust. You have the option of partially blind baking it first, if you prefer it to be well-done (as I do). You may also choose to reserve a cup of the whole pecans to lightly place on the top of the filling just before the pie goes into the oven.
During baking, remember to place patches of aluminum foil over the top of the filling or the crust if you're concerned that either is looking a little too dark.
To fashion a foil shield to protect the nuts, start by folding a sheet of aluminum foil in half, then into quarters. Fold the quartered foil into a triangle, then again into a smaller triangle. Place the center of the triangle at the center of the pie, then cut the foil with a pair of kitchen shears at the edge of the filling.
Recipes for pecan pie vary based on textural preferences. Those with more eggs will set up with a firmer caramel filling; those with less will be runnier. Some recipes call for lots of nuts, resulting in a pie that's chock-full from top to bottom, while those with less create a double-layered effect, with nuts rising to the top of the filling. Some enjoy the addition of molasses, or choose to add a healthy dose of vanilla, bourbon, honey, or maple. There are tons of recipes out there to suit every taste, but if you're looking for a great classic recipe, feel free to borrow mine.
One half recipe easy pie dough
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups toasted pecans (2 cups roughly chopped and 1 cup left whole)
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
Roll pie dough into a circle roughly 12-inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim the edges of the pie dough until it overhangs the edge of the pie plate by 1/2 an inch all the way around. Fold edges of pie dough down, tucking it under itself, working your way all the way around the pie plate until everything is well tucked. Use the forefinger on your left hand and the thumb and forefinger on your right hand to crimp the edges. If a well-done crust is desired, you may chill and blind bake it before proceeding.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, honey, corn syrup, brown sugar, melted butter, salt, and vanilla. Whisk for approximately 30 seconds, until the mixture is homogenous and slightly frothy.
Line pie crust with chopped pecans, reserving the whole ones. Press down slightly so chopped pecans embed in the dough. Pour the filling mixture over the pecans, then gently place the whole pecans in concentric circles on the top, taking care not to press too hard, which will cause the nuts to sink into the filling.
Bake pie for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Continue baking, shielding the exposed nuts with aluminum foil if they threaten to burn (see instructions for fashioning a foil shield above). When finished, the filling should be slightly jiggly, but mostly set and puffed slightly, about 1 hour total. The filling should register between 175 and 180°F (79 to 82°C) on an instant-read thermometer. Allow the pie to cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours and up to overnight before serving.
9 inch pie plate, instant-read thermometer (optional)
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 48g||62%|
|Saturated Fat 11g||56%|
|Total Carbohydrate 74g||27%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||18%|
|Total Sugars 45g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||2%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|